White Zombie

White Zombie is currently available on Amazon Prime

White Zombie (1932)

“A Haitian plantation owner convinces his young friends to wed at his residence, hoping he can use the opportunity to lure the woman away from her fiance. When this ploy fails, he turns to the help of his mill operator for assistance, hoping the man can use his voodoo knowledge to make the woman his slave.”

“Why did you drive like that you fool, we might have been killed.” – “Worse than that monsieur we might have been caught”

One of the main problems for the non-Universal horror movies was that they would only grab a star (Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff) and not all the wonderful supporting players (Dwight Frye, Una O’Connor, Lionel Atwill, etc.). Bela Lugosi was paid a mere $800 for his starring role. On the other hand, that was for only eleven days of work during the Depression. The eyes menaicng you from the poster are Lugosi’s and he has a high old time here.

The best scene in White Zombie is where Lugosi introduces his enemies to a client and it is nicely chilling.There is an equally chilling scene as Lugosi teases an incapacitated victim. While the movie is a cheapie, Lugosi is definitely at the top of his game.

Madge Bellamy plays Madeline Parker, the woman that all three of our male leads are after. Madge had a fascinating career in silent movies (40+) but had her Fox contract terminated when she turned down The Trial of Mary Dugan, a property Fox had purchased specifically to star her. It seemed as though she could have made the transition to talkies if she had not shot herself in the foot. Her career was essentially over after White Zombie. She also married a stockbroker for three days in 1928 and was famous again in 1943 when she shot her millionaire lover.

The wonderful Jack Pierce did the makeup. The zombies do come off looking goofy with goggle eyes. They are very distinctive but I’m not sure they are memorable in the way Pierce would have liked. I do love what he did with Lugosi’s eyebrows, beard and mustache. Lugosi looks awesome here and diametrically different from Dracula.

For those who like Latin music, the legendary Xavier Cugat composed the music for White Zombie (even though he is not credited). He is however credited with popularizing the rumba in America (no, not the vacuum). The score is not particularly memorable other than that Cugat was the composer.

Unfortunately the public domain print is watchable but only just. It is washed out and contrast is overblown. Some of the dialogue is popped out as well. This is yet another reason why the Universal features hold up better – their prints are cleaned up and not public domain.

People Watch: Clarence Muse plays a coach driver here but he was also Sam in Casablanca. What’s that you say? You remember Dooley Wilson playing Sam? Well, Clarence Muse played Sam in the short-lived 1955 television series.

He also played over a hundred and fifty other roles. The majority of these roles would make for a great paper on what it was like to be an actor of color in Hollywood in the pre-civil rights era. Here is a partial list for just the 1930s and 1940s: porter, janitor, servant, servant, doorman, shoeshine man, janitor, doorman, servant, servant, servant, bootblack, doorman, servant, servant, bootblack, porter, porter, porter, porter, porter, porter, porter, porter, porter (seriously) and at least twice a death row inmate.

The Blob

The Blob is currently available on Amazon Prime.

The Blob (1958) – Not Rated

“Two teenagers, after noticing a shooting star fall to earth, come upon a man howling with pain from a mass attached to his arm where the meteorite fell. The blob continues to grow, killing many, until the teenagers discover a way to stop it.”

I have to mention that The Blob is a complete ripoff of X, The Unknown and The Quatermass Xperiment. It steals a lot from both movies (and to be fair X steals from Quatermass as well). I have to mention it because out of the three, The Blob is the one that is remembered.

The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) is an early Hammer horror movie about a manned rocket that returns to Earth. Two of the astronauts are dead but the third is undergoing a metamorphosis into a blob-like crature. It is adapted from a BBC serial and stars American actor Brian Donlevy as Professor Quatermass.

X the Unknown (1956) was hastily made by Hammer after the success of Quatermass. It deals with the British army and a few scientists led by Dr. Royston (Dean Jagger) fighting a radioactive blob-like creature in Scotland.

However in The Blob, instead of stodgy scientists discovering a gelatinous monster, we have a couple of cute young folk. The makers identified their target audience and also went a step further by making this in glorious color. Quatermass and X are in black and white. The Blob also has the now standard trope of having no one believe the teenagers (you know Steve McQueen, 28 and Aneta Corsaut, 25).

The opening tune sets the stage for The Blob. It is light, breezy and fun – co-written by Burt Bacharach. The whole tone of The Blob is fun. We then segue to the young couple watching shooting stars and wouldn’t you know it? One of the stars lands nearby.

Of course a large part of The Blob’s popularity comes from then unknown Steve McQueen (billed as Steven McQueen here). The Blob led to McQueen being cast in his star-making role in Wanted: Dead or Alive. McQueen is his charming, wise-cracking self here (with none of the toughness that would infuse his later performances).

Aneta Corsaut is the other half of our young couple but she doesn’t make nearly the impression that Steve does. She went directly from this into television. Her biggest role was as Helen Crump on The Andy Griffith Show.

The rest of the cast doesn’t matter much. All of the other characters are only in it for a few minutes. In a style that would later become de rigeur, most of the older adults refuse to take our heroes seriously and commit many mistakes. The other generation are just squares, daddy-o. They even throw in a teenage crowd-pleasing scene where they have to break into the school.

The effects are nicely handled and The Blob looks positively creepy. There is a nice combination of silicone (for the monster) and miniatures. The theater scene is especially fun. The movie playing is Daughter of Horror (aka Dementia) and yes that is Publishers Clearing House magnate Ed McMahon doing the voiceover. Unfortunately the effects do not hold up as well later in the film.

Repeat-itis: In the only movie he ever directed, actor Larry Hagman made a seldom seen sequel entitled Beware the Blob! (also known as Son of Blob – 1972). Beware the Blob! is pretty much a train wreck.

A gory (gorier?) remake of The Blob arrived in 1988. Kevin Dillon was no Steve McQueen but the remake is fun. Stephen King pays homage to the meteorite discovery scene in his segment of Creepshow.

The Thing from Another World

The Thing from Another World is currently available on Amazon Prime

Haiku Review: Hawks film formula, three great scenes and no bad ones, Thing more than passes

The Thing from Another World (1951) – Not Rated

“Arctic researchers discover a huge, frozen spaceling inside a crash-landed UFO, then fight for their lives after the murderous being (a pre-Gunsmoke James Arness) emerges from icy captivity.”

“Could be Russians. They’re all over the Pole, like flies.”

Despite it being the only science fiction/horror picture of his career, producer/director/writer Howard Hawks made one of the best monster movies ever made with The Thing from Another World. Tobe Hooper, Ridley Scott, and John Frankenheimer have all stated this film as an influence.

John Carpenter featured The Thing in his own ‘monster’ movie, 1978’s Halloween. Thankfully that made enough money that in 1982, Carpenter was able to release his own version of The Thing. Carpenter uses the same opening credit scene which is pretty nifty. I love Carpenter’s version, especially as one of the finest cinematic examples of paranoia ever recorded. The less said about the 2011 version the better (though I found it to be stupid cheesy fun).

Howard Hawks’ film does not have the paranoia element, which is a little odd, set as it is during the cold war. While a straight-forward monster movie, The Thing from Another World gets almost everything right.

Kenneth Tobey and Margaret Sheridan are our romantic leads. They are likeable and inoffensive but their banter doesn’t gel like say Bogey and Bacall or Tracy and Hepburn. Tobey would go on to star in genre films The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, X-15 and It Came from Beneath the Sea as well as numerous westerns. The Thing was Margaret Sheridan’s debut but she only appeared in five more films.

Robert Cornthwaite steals the movie from the two leads as obsessed scientist Dr. Arthur Carrington. While this was his best role, he also appeared in The War of the Worlds, Destination Space, and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Along with Kevin McCarthy (Invasion of the Body Snatchers) and William Schallert (The Incredible Shrinking Man), Cornthwaite got a cameo in Joe Dante’s delightful celebration of William Castle, Matinee.

Our comic relief in The Thing is the intrepid news reporter Scotty, played by a wonderful Douglas Spencer. Spencer started out as Ray Milland’s double before graduating to roles of his own in this and This Island Earth.

The music, while overbearing and overused in a 1950s way, is magnificent. Dimitri Tiomkin’s score is eerie and quite memorable. Tiomkin was nominated for a whopping 22 Oscars and won 4 of them (The Old Man and the Sea, The High and the Mighty, High Noon x2).

The Thing is based on John W. Campbell’s story, “Who Goes There?”. The adaptation is credited to Charles Lederer but it is believed that Howard Hawks, Ben Hecht and possibly even William Faulkner had a hand in the script. It is tight and focused with only a few extraneous scenes to set up the characters. The dialogue is pretty snappy too.

Howard Hawks is famous for saying that “a good film contains three great scenes and no bad ones”. Certainly The Thing fits that description: the opening title sequence, the expedition surrounding the craft in the ice, the (unseen) emergence of the creature, and each and every confrontation with the creature.

People Watch: Noted midget actor Billy Curtis plays the Creature in its final scene. Starting out in Terror of Tiny Town and The Wizard of Oz, Curtis would go on to appear in over a hundred productions including The Incredible Shrinking Man, High Plains Drifter, and Planet of the Apes.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers is currently available on Amazon Prime.

Haiku Review: Great scary movie; pods, paranoia, worse still:; McCarthyism

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) – Not Rated

Something evil has taken possession of the small town of Santa Mira, California. Hysterical people accuse their loved ones of being emotionless impostors; of not being themselves. At first, Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) tries to convince them they’re wrong…but they’re not. Plant-like extraterrestrials have invaded Earth, replicating the villagers in giant seed “pods” and taking possession of their souls while they sleep.”

“That way madness lies”

There are so many ways to enjoy this movie. Howard Hawks’ The Thing from Another World is just a straight-forward monster movie, albeit an excellent one. Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers can be taken at face value, viewed as a statement on the oppressiveness of government, or better still interpreted as a polemic against the then rampant scourges of McCarthyism and Communism.

After a brief interlude at the asylum, Dr. Bennell tells his story. I really liked that his story was not omniscient. The titular invasion is well under way by the time we flashback. Real stories don’t have neat beginnings (or often endings). I appreciate a story clearly set in a universe that was there before the start of the story.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers works best when it is portraying paranoia. Another aspect that worked really well was that Dr. Bennell couldn’t believe his patients who complained that family members were not themselves. Naturally Dr. Bennell has a tough time convincing others once he comes around.

Invasion is Kevin McCarthy’s star vehicle. He has 205 imdb credits but this is his signature role. I can always picture his penultimate scene and not just because of a similar scene in the remake. Dana Wynter does a fine job as Becky Driscoll. King Donovan and Carolyn Jones are also good as Jack and Teddy Belicec. Carolyn would go on to fame as Morticia on The Addams Family.

Even though he isn’t listed in the credits, genre veteran Whit Bissel is instantly recognizable as Dr. Hill. The prolific Bissel also appeared in The Time Machine, Monster on the Campus, I was a Teenage Werewolf, I was  a Teenage Frankenstein, Target Earth, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Lost Continent, Soylent Green, and was a regular on The Time Tunnel. In essence if you watched science fiction in the 1950s, you knew Whit Bissel.

The other asylum doctor, Dr. Bassett, is played by another genre stalwart, Richard Deacon. Deacon appeared in everything Bissell missed: Them!, This Island Earth, Invaders from Mars, Abbott & Costello Meet the Mummy, The Birds and Piranha.

The ending for the movie is better than the ending for the book. Better still is the original ending of the movie – simply ignore the first scene (pre-flashback) and the final scene and you will see that this classic could have been even better. It still rates as a culturally significant film in the National Registry and is one of the best science fiction movies of all time..

People Watch: Look for future filmmaker Sam Peckinpah in a small role as Charlie.

Remake-itis: Philip Kaufman remade Invasion of the Body Snatchers in 1978, transplanting the setting to San Francisco and altering the main theme to alienation. Donald Sutherland and Leonard Nimoy headline this excellent remake. Kevin McCarthy has an excellent cameo.

Abel Ferrara adapted the story in 1993 as Body Snatchers. He streamlines the story and makes the action quite fast-paced. Look for Forest Whitaker to steal the show in a small part.

Oliver Hirshbiegel remade the story yet again, this time as The Invasion (2007). In spite of Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, and Jeremy Northam, this is easily the least of the adaptations.

The Hunger – Amazon Prime Week

The Hunger is currently available on Amazon Prime.

The Hunger (1983)

“Sensual vampire story stars rock legend David Bowie as an ailing centuries-old vampire whose fanged-lover, Catherine Deneuve, seduces a mortal while seeking a new partner.”

She’s that kind of a woman. She’s… European. “

Tony Scott’s theatrical directorial debut, The Hunger, is a film ahead of its time. The Hunger is all style and not much substance. The movie is very loosely based on the Whitley Streiber novel of the same name.

The first goth rock band, Bauhaus, is featured over the opening credits singing their iconic song, Bela Lugosi’s Dead. While Bauhaus would be on nineteen different soundtracks, this was the first and only time they appeared on film. By they, I mean lead singer Peter Murphy. The other members are featured only as arms or legs. Bauhaus broke up that year.

The Hunger belongs to the trio of actors at the center of the film. Thankfully each one is not only superb but sexy as well. Because so much of the theme of The Hunger is aging, it is nice that Scott went with a trio of mid-to-late-30s actors instead of youngsters.

French superstar Catherine Deneuve has a wonderfully mature icy, sexy demeanor as our central vampire, Miriam. Singer David Bowie was stylish to begin with but handles the aging quite well as Miriam’s companion John. Susan Sarandon leaves her wide-eyed Janet from Rocky Horror behind, playing researcher Sarah Roberts.

The Hunger has cult classic written all over it. The first requirement for cult classic is that it be stylish. The vampires are stylish. They have a stylish home in New York with a stylish staircase, a conservatory, a lily room and an attic with doves, a spotlight, and flowing gauzy curtains. They even have a remote that controls not a television or stereo but a spotlight (re-purposed slide projector?). The wardrobe is stylish, the Egyptian weapon is stylish, the darkened nightclub is stylish.

The second requirement is that it appeal to a niche group. The Hunger is clearly made for the goth movement except that it predates the majority of that. It is also apparently popular in the lesbian community – not a surprise as the scene where Deneuve seduces Sarandon is an absolute stunner.

Makeup artist extraordinaire Dick Smith, already an old hand at age makeup with Little Big Man, does a superb job of aging David Bowie and a monkey. Howard Blake’s score and musical stings work well and is seen briefly as a piano player.

Sorry to be vague here but I hate spoilers. The ending, while, of course, stylish, throws away everything that we learned over the course of the film and as such is rather jarring. In spite of that, I really enjoyed this very different vampire tale.

People Watch: Look for actor Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man, The English Patient) as 2nd Phone Booth Youth. Ann Magnuson is a young woman picked up at a bar.

From Beyond – Amazon Prime Week

From Beyond is currently available on Amazon Prime

From Beyond (1986)

Scientists create a resonator to stimulate the pineal gland (sixth sense), and open up a door to a parallel (and hostile) universe. Based on a story by H. P. Lovecraft. In HD. “

“He used to bring beautiful women here They’d eat fine meals, drink fine wine, listen to music but it always ended with screaming.”

First off let me state that From Beyond is no Re-Animator. Lightning does not strike twice and Re-Animator was an instant cult classic with a career-making performance by Jeffrey Combs. From Beyond is a cult classic but not as good as Re-Animator.

On the other hand, if you want to repeat a formula for success, use the same ingredients. From Beyond reunites actors Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton with writer/director Stuart Gordon again adapting from H.P. Lovecraft. Gordon used much of the same crew as well.

Gordon had planned a series of Lovecraft films using the same crew like the Corman Poe series. Sadly his plans did not quite work out though Gordon would make the Lovecraftian direct-to-video Castle Freak (1995) starring Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton and H. P. Lovecraft’s Dagon (2001). He also did a Lovecraft adaptation for Masters of Horror entitled “Dreams in the Witch-House”.

Jeffrey Combs is wonderful again here as Crawford Tillinghast. Combs has built a cult following from being in a number of nominally Lovecraft films as well as two recurring roles on Star Trek series.He played Weyoun on Deep Space Nine and Commander Shran on Enterprise. His not-quite-sane Tillinghast is quite a departure from his Dr. West of Re-Animator

Opposing Combs is a very creepy Ted Sorel as Dr. Pretorius. Barbara Crampton has a much meatier role here as the obsessed (well aren’t they all) scientist Dr. McMichaels. This time she has an opposite number in Carolyn Purdy-Gordon as Dr. Bloch.

The special effects are wonderful, from the over-sized pineal gland to the corpses to the creatures. The ever-changing monster that is Pretorius is the highlight of the movie. Richard Band’s score is quite evocative if not as catchy as, you guessed it, his score for Re-Animator.

As in Re-Animator, From Beyond has over-the-top grotesqueries and aberrant sexual practices. Gordon said that the MPAA told him that his submission of From Beyond had “ten times too much of everything”. The MPAA of course insisted on cuts to the S&M sequences in the film.

If you are looking for a fun, gory, over-the-top, campy movie then you cannot do better than Re-Animator. Barring that From Beyond is quite a bit of fun.

People Watch: The muscular Ken Foree plays Bubba Brownlee. He has had over a hundred roles but he will always be remembered as Peter in the original Dawn of the Dead.

Sequel-itis: While From Beyond was clearly built to capitalize on the success of Re-Animator, Re-Animator did have two actual sequels, Bride of Re-Animator (1990) and Beyond Re-Animator (2003). Neither were very good.

Ginger Snaps – Amazon Prime Week

Ginger Snaps is currently available on Amazon Prime.

Ginger Snaps (2000)

“Ginger and Brigitte, two sisters trapped in suburbia, are obsessed with mayhem, torture and death… until they get a taste of the real thing.”

“They don’t call it the curse for nothing.” – Tagline

“Just so you know – the words just and cramps, they don’t go together.”

Canadian horror has long been a favorite of mine. I love any horror movie by David Cronenberg – I am sorry that he has graduated to more mainstream, ‘important’ films. Cube (1997) is impressive and spawned the not nearly as good sequels, Cube 2: Hypercube (2002) and Cube Zero (2004). In 2009, there was the interesting but flawed Splice.

Ginger Snaps, written by Karen Walton and directed by John Fawcett, is one of the best werewolf movies I have ever seen. The action is sporadic but fierce until the final act. Fawcett disdained the use of CGI, opting instead to go with prosthetics and makeup.

The best films have a theme that is often different from the plot of the film. The Godfather is all about family and Aliens is about motherhood. Ginger Snaps is all about coming of age as a woman, lycanthropy equals puberty. The equation is not at all subtle but is very well-handled. There is also a strong message of female empowerment in the film.

Ginger Snaps has a very inventive credits sequence, showing a series of staged deaths by our goth teen heroines. It gives you an idea of the level of dark humor in the film and is then revealed to be a class project but it lets us know that the Fitzgerald sisters are a little disturbed.

Katharine Isabelle plays the Ginger of the title, a high school student just getting noticed by the boys. Emily Perkins plays Brigitte, her dweeby sister. The sisters are very close and clearly have anger issues. The two of them have wonderful chemistry and are definitely a part of what makes the film so great.

The sisters carry the film so the supporting cast really is just support. That said Mimi Rogers is excellent as the clueless mother. Her character gets more complex in the third act. Kris Lemche is good as the drug dealer Sam.

Be aware that in addition to the usual horror gore, Ginger Snaps is very foul-mouthed and features sexual and drug-related situations. In short, it is about high schoolers.

People Watch: Yes, that is Lucy Lawless (Xena) heard over the school loudspeaker. Also listen to her page Theodore and Sam Raimi.

Sequel-itis: Ginger Snaps spawned two more movies, both in 2004. Ginger Snaps Unleashed is a sequel and Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning is a prequel of sorts. Both are actually quite good (if not the classic that Ginger Snaps is) and Ginger Snaps Back is currently available on instant Netflix.

Jeepers Creepers – Amazon Prime Week

Jeepers Creepers is currently available on Amazon Prime.

“After making a horrific discovery in the basement of an old abandoned church, Trish (Gina Philips) and her brother Darry (Justin Long) watch their routine road trip home turn into a heart stopping race for their lives.”

“Okay, you know the part in scary movies where somebody does something really stupid and everybody hates them for it, this is it.

Jeepers Creepers is a very good slasher film. Knives are not really involved but tonally it plays out more like a slasher film than a monster movie.

Rather than introduce us to a group of stereotypical cardboard campers/teens/students (the jock, the nerd, the clown, the promiscuous girl, the druggie, the virgin), Salva introduces us to siblings who feel real. They love each other but they still bicker. This relationship is at the heart of the movie. It would have gone for naught had the two leads not been so likable.

Justin (Galaxy Quest, Live Free or Die Hard) Long plays brother Darry Jenner. His vulnerable, comedic performance is a major selling point of the film. Gina (Ally McBeal, Boston Public). Philips plays sister Trish Jenner, a smart sarcastic woman who challenges her brother at every turn. In spite of being over thirty at the time, she is able to play a college student quite well.

In spite of the only three important characters being the siblings and the monster, Salva got a couple good performances out of his supporting cast. Patricia Belcher is a dear as Jezelle Gay Hartman, a woman who may be psychic. She can now be seen as Caroline Julian on Bones. Veteran actress Eileen Brennan has a lot of fun as the crazy cat lady that lives in every neighborhood.

There are two monsters in this film. The first is the Creeper played Jonathan Breck (who also plays the bald cop). Breck does a great job of animating the Creeper suit (especially since the contacts made him blind) and the makeup job on him is excellent. The Creeper is very creepy. The other monster is the enormous battered truck that initially stalks our heroes. The initial road rage encounter is frightening because it is so real. I think a good percentage of us have seen a driver go off the rails in real life.

Jeepers Creepers is excellent all the way through until the all-too-obvious ending. Salva starts the tension off right with a harrowing road encounter with a mysterious truck, followed by a disturbing scene where the siblings wonder if the driver was really dumping bodies and just escalates horrifically from there. There are a few moments where one of the siblings does something stupid but it seems human instead of scripted as do their brighter moments.

People Watch: Writer/director Victor Salva has a cameo as one of the bodies in ‘The House of Pain’.

Sequel-itis: Jeepers Creepers spawned a sequel, the imaginatively named Jeepers Creepers II (2003) which ditched everything but the monster and told a tale of a bus full of young students under siege. Jeepers Creepers II is a straight but entertaining monster movie and is not scary and creepy like the original. imdb lists Jeepers Creepers 3: Cathedral as being released next year.

The Machinist – Amazon Prime Week

The Machinist is currently available on Amazon Prime.

An industrial worker who has not slept in a year begins to doubt his own sanity “

“Who are you?”

The Machinist represents method acting at its finest. Christian Bale lost over sixty pounds to play this role, dropping all the way down to 110. He wanted to lose more but the producers became concerned about his health. He had no more than an apple, a can of tuna, and a cup of black coffee each day for months and that was it. He even took up smoking to fight the hunger cravings. Immediately after The Machinist, Bale had to turn around and bulk up for Batman Begins. Now that is a dedicated actor. Be right back – I am off to grab a snack.

Christian Bale does a fantastic job of playing Trevor Reznick. In addition to his increasing weight loss and insomnia, Reznick suffers from a bizarre set of behaviors often associated with meth addiction: obsessive-compulsive disorder, paranoia, an inability to get his hands clean – even using bleach, and a concern that he might be hallucinating.

Bale is ably supported by co-star Jennifer Jason Leigh. Leigh underwent her own metamorphosis when she went down to 86 pounds to play an anorexic in The Best Little Girl in the World (1981). Here she plays Stevie, a down on her luck prostitute. Aitana Sanchez-Gijon is good as a sympathetic waitress. John Sharian is the mysterious Ivan.

Poor character actor Michael Ironside. In Total Recall (1990), he plays a villain who loses his arms to hero Schwarzenegger. In Starship Troopers (1997), he loses an arm in the military. Well let us just say that maybe he is typecast here.

Writer Scott Kosar turned in a brilliant script for The Machinist. Unfortunately the Hollywood studios felt it was too dark and Kosar and director Brad Anderson could not get it filmed. They finally found backing in Spain so, in spite of the whole film being in English with mostly English and American actors, it was filmed entirely in Barcelona with tons of props to make it seem like Los Angeles.

Literature majors will find much to love here as the script is an amalgamation of, not to mention an homage to, the works of Fyodor Dostoevsky. Nods to Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, and The Double are featured in the plot, characters and visually.

Brad Anderson and cinematographer Xavi Gimenez make wonderful use of the 2.35 scope and give the film a wonderful modern expressionistic look. The score by Roque Banos is evocative of Bernard Herrman, particularly in the use of the theremin. These are all in support of the wonderful story and performance of Christian Bale.

People Watch: Reg E. Cathey, who plays Jones in The Machinist, previously worked with Bale on American Psycho as Al, the derelict. He would go on to play Norman Wilson on The Wire.

Don’t Look Now – Amazon Prime Week

Don’t Look Now is currently available on Amazon Prime.

Don’t Look Now (1973) – Rated R

“On a trip to Venice, a young couple whose daughter has just died meet a psychic who leads them into a frightening and suspenseful experience. Based on a novel by Daphne Du Maurier.”

“The churches belong to God, but he doesn’t seem to care about them. Does he have other priorities?”

Turn off your iPad. Nicholas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now is a very complex movie with a lot going on (even if it appears to be slow-moving) and you need to pay attention. You cannot do justice to this film if you are doing something else at the same time. It is based on a Daphne Du Maurier short story from the book

There are innumerable films about love. There are almost as many about vengeance. Many horror films are designed to produce fear and some are actually about fear. Don’t Look Now is a rarity, a film about grief. The event that sets this in motion is brilliantly filmed – rapidly cutting between the child Christine playing at the pond and the parents in the house.

Don’t Look Now is a joint English-Italian production filmed, not surprisingly, in Italy and England. The majority of the film takes place in picturesque Venice. Roeg wisely avoids a cliched view of tourist Venice and opts for a more workmanlike view, including the decaying churches, dilapidated buildings, and rats. In spite of this, Venice looks wonderful and this perhaps the best use of the city in film, outside of the brief portion in A Little Romance.

Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie star as our grieving parents, John and Laura Baxter. As long as you can get past their distracting 70s hairstyles (Sutherland’s is a wig), the performances are quite good, very real. Sutherland reels in his out-sized personality to give one of his most natural performances.

Don’t Look Now was infamous for a sex scene involving Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. In addition to the controversial nature of the cunnilingus (seriously all of two seconds), there have been persistent rumors that the sex was not simulated. Roeg brilliantly intercut the sex scene with a scene of the couple recovering from sex. This technique apparently helped the film get rated but visually it works wonderfully as well.

Peter Bart, a Paramount executive when Don’t Look Now was filmed, claimed in a recent book that he was on set and Sutherland and Christie really had sex. Sutherland released a statement stating that Bart was not on set and that the claims were false. Producer Peter Katz backed Sutherland’s version.

Marriages rarely survive the death of a child. It is not surprising that one parent would be ultra-rational and the other would be grasping at straws. Faith is tested. Alternatives may be sought. Heather and Wendy are sisters played by Hilary Mason and Clelia Matania. Heather is a psychic but blind. Laura becomes convinced that Heather can ‘see’ her dead child.

Don’t Look Now can be enjoyed as a treatise on grief, an exercise in recursive storytelling (past and future events bleed into the present), or even just as a travelogue on Venice. This is a film that influenced Alfonso Cuaron, Steven Soderbergh, Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, David Cronenberg, and Danny Boyle. Even Ryan Murphy admits he was influenced by it in making the show, American Horror Story.